Members of the Bay Area burglary are believed to have stolen millions of dollars worth of merchandise from retailers, have pleaded guilty to the case, and its leader is expected to be sentenced to several years in prison, California Atti. General Rob Bonta announced on Friday.
Officials said Danny Luis Drago, the alleged head of the chain, and four others did so two years after authorities began investigating an operation in which the group was reselling goods stolen from Target, CVS and other stores.
“Today’s announcement should be a warning shot for anyone thinking of engaging in organized retail theft and committing blatant crimes without concern for the safety of workers, our business and our communities. You will be held accountable, ”Bonta said.
Bonta’s warning came amid growing concern over the recent spike in theft and robbery involving large groups of people looting luxury stores in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
A team of investigators from the State Department of Justice, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol solved Drago’s case during raids in 2020 of warehouses that found stolen goods worth about $ 8 million. Later, $ 1.8 million in cash was returned from bank accounts associated with the organized crime group.
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos G. Bolanos said the investigation had uncovered an international network of criminals that “transported millions of dollars worth of stolen goods.” He said retail theft was a major component of the scheme, which also included car thefts, home burglaries and burglaries.
“Robbery and robbery, luxury store raids, department store robberies: the organized retail thefts that we see across the country and in California are unacceptable,” Bonta said at a press conference outside the CVS store in San Mateo County, which was among places the group is targeting. “Organized criminals resell their stolen goods and, in many cases, use the money to fund additional illegal activities.”
Bonta’s office worked with San Mateo County attorneys on this case.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Drago is expected to be sentenced to six years in prison early next year, Bonta said, although the judge will have the final say in the sentence. Drago and others have pleaded guilty to a number of theft offenses, including conspiracy to commit organized retail theft, obtaining stolen property, and money laundering.
A recent spate of high-profile thefts and robberies has led to other charges. San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin charged nine people with violent crimes in a series of shoplifting, including robbing luxury stores in the Union Square area.
In this incident, dozens of people stormed into a Louis Vuitton store, grabbed the brand’s expensive merchandise, and fled in cars parked outside. Police said a caravan of thieves drove through San Francisco’s elite boutiques, stealing more than $ 1 million in merchandise.
In Los Angeles, 14 people have been arrested in connection with a series of similar thefts over the past few weeks.
Across the country, retailers have warned of an increase in the number of stolen goods as many states changed shop theft laws to increase the amount a thief would need to steal in order to be charged.
Together with Drago, Edgar Geovani Robles Morales, Isis Vazquez Villanueva, Jose Villatoro and Michelle Rene Fowler were arrested in September last year, who later pleaded guilty.
Fowler was sentenced to three years in state prison, but the judge agreed to spare her that time behind bars if she completed a two-year supervised probation and spent 364 days in the San Mateo County Jail.
Morales and Villanueva were sentenced to probation. Villatoro was sentenced to probation and 30 days in prison.